penfolds_the_rewards_of_patience_book_1 edition 8

The Penfolds Collection 2020, including Penfolds Grange 2016

Penfolds’ ‘The Rewards of Patience’ by Andrew Caillard MW; photo credit Penfolds

Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, I take a look at the latest 2016 release of Penfolds’ Grange.  The iconic Australian label moved up from 30th to 5th position in Liv-ex’s Power 100 list of the most powerful fine brands for the year ending 30 September 2020.  The impact of subsequent  swingeing tariffs for Australian wines in China remains to be seen, but Penfolds is reported to have re-allocated stock intended for the Chinese market. 

Collectors will doubtless be leafing through the pages of the new 8th edition of Penfolds’ ‘The Rewards of Patience’ (in smart new house livery), reviewing the expert panel’s suggested drinking windows and one to five star ratings.   There are exceptional, five-star ratings for three vintages from the 1950s – still going strong, with another 40 years’ drinking forecast for one of them!

Together with Penfolds’ regular re-corking clinics, the extensive Rewards of Patience panel tasting of pretty much every vintage of The Penfolds Collection, affords the Penfolds’ team great insight into drinking windows.  My notes on The Penfolds Collection 2020 below (tasted in September 2020) reference Penfolds’ vintage reports and peak drinking windows.  You will find no better guide, though I’ve highlighted where I beg to differ in my notes.

The Penfolds Collection 2020 launch tasting, London.

Chief Winemaker Peter Gago and his team have fielded a super strong line up for The Penfolds Collection 2020, including amongst the best Chardonnays I have tasted – certainly Yattarna and Bin 311, which looks good value.  Amongst the reds, my highlights included Penfolds Grange 2016 – a terrific classic example, majoring on savouriness, with fabulous structure. Bin 707 is in epic form, contrasting with St Henri, which goes its own insouciant way – a beautiful wine in 2017.   I always have a soft spot for Bin 150, the characterful sub-regional Shiraz from Marananga. RWT seems exceptionally polished in 2018 whilst, Bin 138 SGM ensnares with its Eau Sauvage citrus, earth and spice.

Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2020 (Eden Valley)

Penfolds vintage report:  Eden Valley experienced plentiful winter rainfall, with average falls leading into spring. However, the following summer and autumn were very dry, with well below average rainfall. Spring and early summer were dry, hot and windy, which impacted final yields, however reduced disease pressure during the growing season. From January, the season became cooler than average with a low number of days over 35°C, near perfect ripening conditions, with cool nights and mild days. Riesling was harvested in the early hours of the mornings, with overnight temperatures clutching 5-10°C, allowing for greater acid retention and flavour development. Harvest commenced on February 19th and concluded on February 26th. Overall, a relatively small but high-quality crop of Eden Valley riesling.

Winemaking: Classic cool ferment in stainless steel; bottled after two months in stainless steel.  Alc/Vol: 12%, Acidity: 7.5 g/L, pH: 3.06

My tasting note: As they say, with its pronounced perfumed nose, this Riesling ‘leaps out of the glass,’ with lifted talc, musk and rosewater, which notes follow through on a salty palate, with a lick fresh fiery, ginger to the finish. In the driving seat, ripe lime flavours ripple across the tongue, with rounder fresh Conference pear.  Nicely done, this dry, accessible Riesling has good intensity of flavour.  12% Now-2027

Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2019 (Tasmania, Adelaide Hills, Tumbarumba)

Penfolds vintage report:  Tasmania experienced typically plentiful winter rainfall, however spring began quite dry with September well down on the long-term average. Generally warm spring temperatures were recorded with no significant frost events reported. Summer was very warm and very dry, conditions that prevailed through to harvest. The Adelaide Hills growing season rainfall was below average, however good falls in June and August ensured optimal soil moisture levels for budburst. Cold, wet and windy weather set in during flowering and in contrast to some warmer regions, Adelaide Hills vines were well placed to see off the summer heat spikes with few issues. Tumbarumba had significant heavy rainfalls in November. Conditions were generally hot in summer, with two heatwaves in January mitigated by cooler spells in-between. The growing season finished well, with mild conditions leading into vintage. Chardonnay displayed strong varietal character and retained good natural acidity across the three regions.

Winemaking: Eight months in French oak barriques (35% new). Alc/Vol: 13%, Acidity: 6.8 g/L, pH: 3.15

My tasting note: A toasty, lemony, markedly flinty nose and palate. Fine-framed, with lovely precision and detail, crushed oyster shell minerality and a well-focused, racy, lime-inflected finish.  Yattarna may represent the cream of the crop/barrels, but sourced from the same regions, Bin 311 is impressive for a fifth of the money.  £96/6 bottles in bond at Mr Wheeler.  Now -2027

Penfolds Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2019 (Adelaide Hills)

Penfolds Vintage report: Rainfall was well below average during the growing season, however good falls in June and August ensured optimal soil moisture levels for budburst. Cold, wet and windy weather prevailed during flowering, which caused poor fruit-set and a significant reduction in the anticipated crop size. Summer was generally hot, with two heatwaves in January mitigated by cooler spells in-between. In contrast to some warmer regions, Adelaide Hills vines were well placed to see off the summer heat spikes with few issues. The growing season finished well, with mild conditions leading into vintage. Chardonnay grapes displayed strong varietal character and retained good natural acidity.

Winemaking: Fruit is hand-picked into small bins and whole-bunch pressed. A portion of the juice is incrementally filled to barrel directly from the press and allowed to undergo a natural fermentation. Every new and seasoned French oak barrique is its own unique 225-litre ferment. Fermented and matured on solids with regular yeast lees stirring. 100% malolactic fermentation (all natural). Eight months in French oak barriques (80% new); Alc/Vol: 13%, Acidity: 7.0 g/L, pH: 3.18

My tasting note: A more savoury, complex nose than Bin 311, with tightly wound struck match and salted cashew.  In the mouth it is youthfully intense, with concentrated white peach and grapefruit, the finish long and lemony, with fresh grated lime zest.  Powerful – very high wattage right now.  Needs time.  I would give at least a year and expect it to keep for a decade.  £79/bottle at Averys Now to 2030

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2018 (Tasmania, Tumbarumba, Adelaide Hills)

Penfolds Vintage report: “All three regions enjoyed a relatively wet winter and spring, setting the vines up with healthy soil moisture profiles for the ensuing growing season. Tasmania experienced clear and generally warm conditions from January onwards, with no extreme heat spells leading into harvest. The temperature only breached 35°C once in January, resulting in optimal conditions for ripening. Tumbarumba had plentiful rainfall right up to December, when a dry spell set in. In February, temperatures were generally cool allowing for slow, consistent ripening. The Adelaide Hills fruit-set was slightly above average. The region experienced a warm finish to the growing season, however well-developed canopies shielded the fruit from adversity and ensured the berries ripened evenly. Harvest was an orderly affair across the three regions, with chardonnay exhibiting outstanding varietal characteristics with bracing natural acidity.”

Winemaking: Eight months in French oak barriques (60% new); Alc/Vol: 13%, Acidity: 7.3 g/L, pH: 3.12

My tasting note: This Wine of the Month (October) made the cut for my Wines of the Year. Describing it as the pick of the whites – “this year Yattarna steals the show” – for Chief Winemaker Peter Gago, it’s about the “subtley, balance, poise and a lovely not trying too hard sort of demeanour.”  As is usually the case, Yattarna Chardonnay 2018 is a multi-regional blend from Tasmania, Tumbarumba and Adelaide Hills.  I’m a big fan of Yattarna’s precision and line, which I’ve always attributed to the Tasmanian component.  The 2018 is no exception, but it seems to have an extra layer of complexity in this release – a touch of subtle Chablis-like funk (as opposed to Reserve Bin A’s showier struck match).  Like the oak (Yattarna 2018 spent 8 months in French oak barriques, 60% new), the funk is beautifully integrated – a stealthy and seamless layer of texture and complexity.  As always, the fruit is bright’n tight, with scintillating, steely grapefruit drive and fresh cut apple to the core.  A hint of bruised apple and cloudy apple juice too – gentle ‘give,’ if you like – which doesn’t detract one iota from the structure.  Rather, hitched to racy, mineral acidity, the palate has tremendous intensity, line and length and a palpable sense of dry extract.  Tensile, there is no shortage of backbone here, yet Yattarna 2018 is eminently broachable too.  Gago compares it to the 2008 and 2011 vintages which, he observed, are drinking beautifully, so expect it to keep for at least a decade.  Super-classy, this exceptionally refined Chardonnay thoroughly entranced me, lingering tantalisingly in the memory. Sensational in the truest sense of the word.  13% £504/6 bottles in bond at Honest Grapes, Fine & Rare and Justerini & Brooks.  Now-2033

Penfolds Bin 23 Pinot Noir 2019 (Tasmania, Adelaide Hills, Henty)

Penfolds Vintage report: The 2019 vintage was strong on quality across all three cool-climate regions. The Tamar Valley in Tasmania experienced average rainfall over the growing season, with spring temperatures close to the long-term average. Summer was warm, with a maximum of 34.5°C recorded on January 25th. The Adelaide Hills was challenged by low winter rainfall yet nevertheless produced grapes with very strong flavour profiles. Summer was generally hot across Australia, with two heatwaves in January mitigated by cooler spells in-between. Adelaide Hills vines were well placed to see off the summer heat spikes with few issues. In Henty, careful canopy management and targeted irrigation shielded the grapes during the hot spells. Warm, settled and dry conditions prevailed during harvest allowing for excellent varietal flavour development and an orderly vintage.

Winemaking: Matured for eight months in French oak barriques (31% new); Alc/Vol: 13.5%, Acidity: 5.8 g/L, pH: 3.56

My tasting note: A sappy, dark-fruited but medium-bodied nose and palate with blackcurrant, beetroot, floating, lifted violets and dried herb hints.  On a charm offensive, it is cashmere soft, positively indulgent, in the mouth. Penfolds’ polish – perhaps a little over-polished?  But enjoyable.  Now-2030 (I’d suggest a shorter drinking peak window – to 2027)

Penfolds Bin 138 Shiraz Grenache Mataro 2018 (Barossa Valley)

Penfolds Vintage report: Autumn rainfall was below average, a trend that continued into early winter with only 25% of the long-term average achieved in June. The latter half of winter was wetter, with vines entering the growing season with very healthy moisture profiles. Temperatures were below average during winter, however it warmed substantially through spring boosting vine growth and rushing the vines through flowering. Spring conditions were dry early, followed by plentiful November rainfall which encouraged good, strong canopy development. Summer was dry, with no recorded major rain events. This carried into January with a heat spike around veraison causing vines to stall, pushing the start of vintage out by a week or so. The warm weather carried into autumn, setting up an Indian summer with favourable conditions for ripening grapes, and this coupled with dry conditions set up a high-quality vintage for all three varietals.

Winemaking: Bin 138 is sourced from old Barossa Valley vines (some more than 100 years old) and then matured for 12 to 15 months in seasoned French and American oak hogsheads.

My tasting note:  a savoury but joyous, perfumed blend of 68% Shiraz, 22% Grenache, 10% Mataro with lashings of ‘Eau Sauvage’ – orange peel, earth, peppery grunt and a hint of saddle soap/leather to the bright, tightly wound fruit lurking beneath.  The Mataro really pushes through on the meaty, spicy finish.  Animated and immensely likeable.Now-2035

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2018 (Coonawarra)

Penfolds Vintage report:  Coonawarra enjoyed near long-term average winter rainfall, and slightly below average spring rainfall. Following a frost event on November 4th, the region welcomed warmer temperatures across the remainder of the month, +3.6°C above the long-term average thanks to a combination of high minimum and maximum temperatures. Coonawarra experienced 13 days of temperature greater than 35°C during the months of January, February and March, with the longest spell spanning 3 days (17th – 19th January). The hottest day recorded was 42°C on January 19th. From December to mid-April conditions were very dry, delivering only 50mm, which is half the normal rainfall. Consequently, there was no disease pressure. Mild conditions prevailed over the harvest, which allowed grapes to ripen with optimal flavour and fine tannins. An excellent season for Coonawarra shiraz.

Winemaking: Matured 12 months in French oak hogsheads (26% new); Alc/Vol: 14.5 %, Acidity: 6.8 g/L, pH: 3.59

My tasting note: Looking back, my notes could be referring to a Coonawarra Cabernet.  It has a classic Coonawarra nose, with an edge of fresh mint and savoury black olive and earth nuances.  The blackcurrant fruit still seems embryonic – tightly clasped – making for a certain austerity.  Fine but firm and plentiful tannins (with a touch of chocolate) and redcurrant acidity produce a well-focused finish; medium-bodied.   £27.99/bottle, £24.99/mixed case of 6 at Cadman Fine Wines  Now-2035 (Needs a year or two in bottle to unfurl?)

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018 (South Australia)

Penfolds Vintage report:  South Australia’s viticultural regions experienced relatively dry conditions, and near long-term winter/spring temperatures during vine dormancy and at the beginning of the growing season. After a racing start, a short spell of cooler weather in early November slowed down grapevine development. Warm and sunny weather prevailed throughout most of spring, providing optimal conditions for flowering and fruit-set. Summer was warm, Barossa Valley experienced 22 days of temperature greater than 35°C while McLaren Vale experienced 17 days of temperature greater than 35°C – with a maximum of 42.1°C on January 18th. Padthaway, Robe and Wrattonbully also had a warm, dry growing season by regional standards. Late flowering and the delayed onset of veraison throughout the south-east slowed harvest by a few weeks. The warm and dry weather carried into autumn, setting up an Indian summer with favourable conditions for ripening grapes.

Winemaking:  Matured 12 months in seasoned American oak hogsheads; Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 6.7 g/L, pH: 3.62 

Tasting note: widely sourced within South Australia, grapes for this Shiraz blend hail from the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Fleurieu, Robe, Mt Lofty Ranges, Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek.  Deep purple in hue, with sweet vanillin and mocha to the nose and dark berry fruit.  The palate reveals lashings of black cherry and berry fruit, with notes of cured black olive and medicinal dried herbs.  Charry oak (still integrating) and iron filings to the finish bring a trace of bitterness; Kahlua coffee brings warmth.  Still coming together.  £32 at Fraziers Wine Merchants   2022-2038

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (South Australia)

Penfolds Vintage report:  A relatively dry winter and spring, coupled with slightly above average temperatures, indicated an early start to the growing season. Overall warm conditions prevailed with optimal conditions for flowering and fruit-set. Barossa Valley experienced 22 days of temperature greater than 35°C, while McLaren Vale experienced 17 days of temperature greater than 35°C, with a maximum of 42.1°C on January 18th. Coonawarra experienced 13 days over 35°C coupled with below average rainfall. Late flowering and the onset of veraison delayed harvest by a few weeks, a pattern that also played out in Wrattonbully, Padthaway and Robe. The warm autumn conditions leading into harvest ensured cabernet sauvignon achieved ample ripeness with well-rounded tannins and tremendous varietal flavour. All up, an exceptional vintage for cabernet sauvignon.

Winemaking:  Matured 12 months in French oak (21% new) and American oak (9% new) hogsheads; Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 6.9 g/L, pH: 3.58

Tasting note: A multi-regional South Australian blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, from Coonawarra, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Robe.  The dark, savoury nose reveals a dusting of dried herbs, with bay leaf and blackcurrant bud.  In the mouth, this is a brooding Bin 407, still quite elemental.  Not going for pretty or polished on the palate.  Rather, a bit of a bruiser!  Going back to the glass at the end of the tasting, blueberry and blackcurrant notes have emerged and the dried herbs are joined by violets.  Still, it is ripe and broad-shouldered, with hints of charry oak.  Tapering into a ‘dry’ (flavour) finish, the polished tannins – a rail – harness and direct the fruit.   £58 at Harvey Nichols  Now-2038 (Needs a couple of years to come together). 

Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2018 (Barossa Valley)

Penfolds Vintage report:  Dry conditions prevailed during vine dormancy and the start of the growing season, with Marananga experiencing autumn rainfall well below average, a trend that continued into the early part of winter. A quarter of the long-term average rainfall was achieved in June. The second half of winter was wetter, with vines entering the growing season with good soil moisture profiles. Temperatures were below average during winter, however it warmed substantially through spring boosting vine growth and rushing the vines through flowering. Summer was dry, with no recorded major rain events. This carried into January with a heat spike around veraison causing vines to stall, pushing the start of harvest out by a week or so. The warm weather carried into autumn, setting up an Indian summer with favourable conditions for ripening grapes, and this coupled with dry conditions set up a high-quality vintage.

Winemaking: Matured 12 months in American oak (25% new, 25% 1-y.o.) and French oak (25% new, 25% 1-y.o.) hogsheads and puncheons; Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 6.5 g/L, pH: 3.69

My tasting note: Typically Marananga, with a savoury nose and palate.  Sarsaparilla, vanilla, black cherry and bitter chocolate mingle on the nose, following through on a  long, layered palate, with brooding dark berry and mulberry fruit, dark chocolate and espresso oak, malt, earthy cep powder and smoked meat.  Supple, supportive tannins make for a velvety mouthfeel, whilst balanced acidity keeps the flavours in play.   An absorbing wine.  Lovely, for me broachable now, but better to wait.  £201.00/6 bottles in bond at Mr Wheeler  2023-2035

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2018 (South Australia)

Penfolds Vintage report:  Relatively dry conditions coupled with near long-term winter/spring temperatures indicated an early start to the growing season. However, a spell of cold weather in November slowed grapevine development. Warm and sunny weather prevailed throughout spring providing optimal conditions for flowering and fruit-set. Barossa Valley experienced 22 days of temperature greater than 35°C in summer, while McLaren Vale experienced 17 days greater than 35°C. Coonawarra, Robe and Wrattonbully also had a warm, dry growing season by regional standards. Late flowering and the delayed onset of veraison throughout the south-east slowed harvest by a few weeks. The warm, dry weather carried into autumn, setting up an Indian summer with favourable conditions for ripening grapes. A fine vintage for all Penfolds South Australian growing regions.

Winemaking: Maturation American oak hogsheads (38% new); Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 7.1 g/L, pH: 3.59

Tasting note: A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Shiraz, sourced from McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Coonawarra, Robe and Wrattonbully. Very berry on the nose, with a wall of pureed red and black berry fruit and a surprisingly refined note –  the scent of dried roses.  More visceral on the palate, with a touch of creosote to the dense tannins, which fur up (new verb) on the finish. But there is an impressive core of polished and perfumed berry fruit here, with a touch of spearmint and those dried roses to the finish.  A persistent undertow of fresh acidity leavens the whole. Not the most charismatic or typical Bin 389, but I liked it very much.  I shall be interested to follow its progress and re-taste it when the beguiling fruit and assertive, furry tannins are in harmony.  £47.99 at Cadman Fine Wines/£42.99/mixed case of 6 2023-2050

Penfolds St Henri 2017 (South Australia)

Penfolds Vintage report: South Australia’s wine regions experienced a cool and mostly wet winter and spring, which provided the vines with plentiful soil moisture profiles. Longstanding rainfall records were broken across South Australia, with some regions experiencing minor flooding. The dams in Eden Valley were full by the end of winter. October was windy, which challenged fruit-set, however winds warded off any potential frost events in the Barossa Valley vineyards. Cool conditions extended the growing season, with flowering and veraison both later than expected. No heatwaves were recorded during summer and only a handful of days surpassed 40°C. Warmer weather in March was welcomed, allowing grapes to finish ripening, develop deep colour and varietal character. Harvest for shiraz grapes commence mid-March, a month later than the previous year.

Winemaking: Matured 12 months in 50+ y.o. vats; Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 6.6 g/L, pH: 3.63

Tasting note: A multi-regional South Australian 97% Shiraz/3% Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley, Port Lincoln.  With jubey red fruits, juniper and red apple skin to the nose and palate, this is a highly digestible, truly delightful St Henri – supple, with the silky smooze of glycerol and creamy milk chocolate, yet with unerring line.  Sweet red fruit ‘leather’ flavours are well met with savoury, meaty black pepper, saddle soap/leather, dried sage, clove and anise nuances.  The flavours are beautifully integrated, as are the svelte, savoury tannins – a showcase for aged foudre, like mercury, St Henri finds its own path – less rock, more roll!  £70.00 at Cadman Fine Wines 2022-2052 (but showing well already)

Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2018 (South Australia)

Penfolds Vintage report: Winter and spring rainfall was well below the long-term average and temperatures slightly above average. The warm and dry spring conditions were optimal for flowering and fruit-set, with vines developing good protective canopies. Weather conditions remained warm throughout the growing season leading to veraison in January. There were intermittent heat spikes, with summer temperatures pushing into the mid-40’s on several occasions. A peak of 43.7°C was achieved on January 19th.  The vineyard was hand-picked on the 13th and 16th of February, with grapes displaying excellent varietal characteristics.

Winemaking:  Matured 17 months in French (24% new) and American (18% new) oak hogsheads; Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 6.9 g/L, pH: 3.61

Tasting note: Sourced from the Magill vineyard on the edge of Adelaide’s eastern suburbs (just eight kilometres from the city’s CBD), fruit is crushed, fermented and matured on-site at the original winery, established in 1844. Creamy, long in the mouth, with super-succulent, plush black berry and cherry and plum fruit.  Savoury formic, vanillin and cured leather notes and textured, touch gritty tannins, lend interest.  Motors along juicily, with cherry chocolate truffle finish to the finish.  What’s not to like.   £144 at Hedonism 2022-2040

Penfolds RWT Bin 798 2018 (Barossa Valley)

Penfolds Vintage report:  Rainfall in autumn was below average, a trend that continued into the early weeks of winter with only 25% of the long-term average achieved in June. Increased rainfall occurred in the second half of winter, with vines entering the growing season with moisture profiles well into the root zone, down to one metre. Conditions favoured canopy development in spring, initially dry before plentiful rainfall in November. Temperatures warmed substantially through spring boosting vine growth and rushing the vines through flowering. Summer was dry, with no recorded major rain events. This carried into January with a heat spike around veraison causing vines to stall, pushing the start of vintage out by a week or so. The warm, dry weather carried into autumn, setting up an Indian summer with favourable conditions for ripening grapes. A very strong vintage for Barossa Valley shiraz.

Winemaking:  Matured 16 months in French oak hogsheads (64% new and 36% 1-y.o.); Alc/Vol: 14.5% Acidity: 6.7 g/L, pH: 3.59

Tasting note: Cured meat to the nose, with espresso.  Lovely intensity, depth and flow of blackcurrant, blackberry and cherry fruit, well supported by fine grained ripe but present tannins.  Powerful, intense, young, with great fluidity and tension and lashings of smoky espresso suffused black fruits to the lengthy, ultra-persistent graphite finish.  Smokin’!  An exceptionally accomplished wine.  £95/bottle at Cadman Fine Wines  2022-2050

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (South Australia)

Penfolds Vintage report:  A relatively dry winter and spring, coupled with slightly above average temperatures, indicated an early start to the growing season. A spell of cold weather during budburst slowed vine phenology by approximately 10-14 days but climatic conditions for flowering and fruit-set were optimal in all regions. Summer was warm, with the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra all experiencing heat spells greater than 35°C in January with below average rainfall. Late flowering and onset of veraison delayed harvest by a few weeks, a pattern also reflected in Wrattonbully and Robe. The Adelaide Hills had a very dry finish to summer and an unseasonably warm autumn, ensuring cabernet sauvignon achieved ample ripeness with good levels of flavour and intensity. Overall, an exceptional vintage for cabernet sauvignon with strong varietal expression across each sourcing region.

Winemaking:  Matured 18 months in American oak hogsheads (100% new); Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 7.0 g/L, pH: 3.57

Tasting note: A multi-regional South Australian blend from McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully, Robe and Adelaide Hills. Great intensity of blueberry and cassis to the nose and palate, with charry, emollient kid-glove and vanillin oak well in evidence.  Great warp and weft to the palate, with intricate layers of tannin and flavour -green peppercorn, green tea, bitter chocolate, bay leaf, iodine, violets, sloes, blueberry and cassis and Penfolds’ signature formic edge.  This stately procession of flavours builds into a powerful, plush, creamy, fruit ripe finish, with long chassis tannin and juice underpinning aplenty.  Charismatic.  A terrific example of this unique, un-reconstructed expression of Cabernet.  £375/bottle at Cadman Fine Wines, £3,600/12 bottles in bond at Farr Vintners  Now-2050 (I would give it a couple of years yet).

Penfolds Grange 2016 (South Australia)

Penfolds Vintage report:  Autumn and winter were dry and cool across South Australia. Below long-term average rainfall continued throughout spring and summer, resulting in a slightly delayed start to the growing season across the warmer districts. The early part of summer was warm, with plenty of sunshine, allowing shiraz vines to develop healthy canopies and good bunch set. Rainfall in late January and early February was a welcome relief across the state and greatly improved yield forecasts. Optimal conditions in late summer and early autumn ensured the grapes were able to ripen evenly, develop desirable flavours and firm tannins. The Barossa Valley and Clare Valley harvest was outstanding, for both yield and quality. McLaren Vale recorded only a handful of days above 40°C in December, with no heatwaves from veraison to harvest. Mild conditions were also welcomed at Magill Estate vineyard, where shiraz was able to ripen evenly across all three blocks. Grapes from the Magill Estate harvest were handpicked on the 11th and 12th of February.

Winemaking:  Matured 18 months in American oak hogsheads (100% new); Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 7.3 g/L, pH: 3.63

Tasting note: Multi-regional 97% Shiraz, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon South Australian blend from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Magill Estate. A rich, charry/oily nose, with mocha and iodine notes to nose and palate.  In the mouth, the oak is subsumed in a black hole of fruit – an inverted mass that has seemingly disappeared into itself, making for great savouriness of expression – a rub of dried herbs, tapenade, cut finger and reams and reams of ripe but present, fine, sooty, mineral tannins.  Brooding, yet with momentum, heady and involving, Penfolds Grange 2016 builds, casting the net long, with great retro-nasal carry.  Archetypal – to 2060 and beyond!  £415/bottle or £899/magnum at Cadman Fine Wines 2022-2065

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